A marathon race was first run over the 21.5km between Denver sluice and Queen Adelaide Bridge, close to Ely in the early 1980’s. This was organised by Mark and Sue Edwards from the former Neptune Rowing Club. As Neptune was based at Kings Lynn at the north end of the course, crews raced from south to north, heading towards the host club’s base.
Although Neptune RC is no longer in existence, Mark took part in the 2013 Great Ouse Marathon which provided him with an opportunity to row over familiar water and to promote his tireless efforts to raise money for brain tumour research.
The Isle of Ely Rowing Club was founded in 2004; and in 2009 resurrected the marathon as an invitation event under the enthusiastic guidance of Teresa Aslett. As the new host club was based at the southern end of the course, the direction was reversed, with competitors now racing from north to south.
The popularity of the event has grown over the years, and in 2012 it became a British Rowing open event. A feature article in the June 2013 issue of Rowing and Regatta magazine meant that 2013 was a bumper year, with entries from as far afield as Tyneside, the Welsh boarders and Kent.
The race has continued to grow every year since then, with many competitors from previous years returning. 177 crews were in the draw for 2016, and pewter pots were awarded in 27 competitive categories with 3 or more entries.
The club is grateful to West Norfolk Rowing Club for its support and for the provision of facilities for the start of the race.
Isle of Ely RC believes that this brief history is only the beginning, and look forward to welcoming both new and returning competitors to this challenging yet friendly, enjoyable and growing event in the racing calendar.